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Nov 23, 2020 4 min read

Ask yourself these questions before going to the dispensary

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by Ben Hartman
Customers in a cannabis dispensary

Millions of people are finding themselves suddenly able to access cannabis, and millions more will soon be able to buy it legally. When those would-be cannabis consumers find themselves at the counter of a dispensary one day soon, some of them might just need more help than they’re willing to admit. 

This rapidly changing cannabis reality was the backdrop of a special webinar The Cannigma held with Weedmaps last week in which Weedmaps Senior Content Manager Lesley Nickus shared her expert knowledge of legal weed retailers — and what consumers need to know. 

Do some research before you hit the dispensary

In the old days, before 2012 or so, you pretty much just took whatever your dealer had available if you wanted some marijuana. You could opt for a cheaper option or “something like what you had last time,” but ultimately you went in blind. With legal dispensaries, there’s no reason not to be an educated consumer. 

“Nowadays it’s a lot easier to do your research ahead of time. You’ll go in feeling more prepared, especially if you’re feeling apprehensive before your first time. Arming yourself with knowledge beforehand is one of the best ways to ease those nerves and walk in feeling like you know what questions to ask,” Nickus said. 

This can mean going on to the website of the dispensary — or a site like Weedmaps — to do some research about the types of cannabis products in store, which companies make them, what they’re recommended for, and if they’re currently in stock. 

Ask yourself some questions

It’s not just a matter of knowing what to ask the budtender behind the counter, Nickus explained, adding that first and foremost, one should consider questions to ask themselves.

Those questions include:

  • Do you have a medical condition you’re looking to treat?
  • Do you want to smoke, or do you prefer other methods?
  • What are the goals of your cannabis use? (this is the most important question)

Once inside the dispensary, take the time to read the labels of the products you’re considering, and speak to the budtenders about the products and the brands in question — as well as about your own cannabis use goals. 

“Ask all the questions that you could possibly want to ask. The budtenders are there to help you and make a sale, no one wants to lead you astray and then you have a product you don’t like and don’t come back,” Nickus said. 

The customer is (usually) right 

In illegal — or “legacy” — weed markets, making a purchase and going out of your way to meet up with a dealer was an investment in and of itself. You might have felt compelled to make a purchase, often sight unseen, even when something just didn’t feel right. When it comes to shopping at a legal dispensary, there’s no reason to feel that your hands are tied, or that you aren’t in the driver’s seat, Nickus said.   

The cannabis retail world is astoundingly varied these days, with everything from mom and pop style bodega-esque dispensaries, to warehouse sized businesses that resembled big box outlets. And one good rule of thumb about dispensaries? If you pull up and don’t like the look of the place or the experience in front of you, don’t do it, Nickus advised. 

You are under no obligation to make a purchase even after you’ve been inside the dispensary and checked out some products. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, chances are there’s another dispensary nearby, especially if you’re in a major market like Los Angeles, Denver, or Seattle. 

Have your ID ready
Dispensaries range from mom and pop style bodega-esque dispensaries, to warehouse sized outlets. (The Cannigma / Anthony Travagliante)

Forget about dated preconceptions 

We know a tremendous amount about cannabis today. Unfortunately, among the majority of cannabis consumers, old conventional wisdom about weed still holds strong. 

“Don’t get too attached to labels like indica or sativa or the strain name — this is an indication of what’s in the product but it’s not going to tell you how it will make you feel. There’s a lot of other compounds in the plant that will have an impact on the feeling it will result in,” Nickus said. 

She emphasized the importance of looking at the terpene profile of the cannabis products you’re considering, and that while most people may not still be savvy about the importance of terpenes, “I do find that more consumers are asking about terpene profiles, which is fantastic.” She added that “consumers are certainly becoming more educated, but it’s really hard to undo decades of collective knowledge.”

Find the brand and products that work for you 

There are countless products and formulations on the dispensary shelf, from pre-rolls to flower to gummies to topical creams and even suppositories. But by knowing what it is you’re looking for, and by speaking to the budtender, you can hone in on the right products, speeding through the trial and error phase until you find your go-to brand or product.

“The brand is important because if you find a product that you really like, they will produce it time and time again, if you want that type of stability and reliability,” Nickus said. 

In July, Nickus spoke to The Cannigma about tips for first-time cannabis dispensary customers. The main tips she highlighted at the time were: make sure to bring cash (as dispensaries are cash-only businesses); do your research beforehand so you know what you’re looking for; check your stigmas at the door and don’t act like it’s a back alley drug deal; listen to the budtender’s advice; and know that just became a product has a steeper price tag or is a more “top shelf” brand or product, that doesn’t mean its better. 

Be safe, don’t forget your ID, and have fun!

As the pandemic stretches on, Nickus said the same dos and don’ts remain, but with an even more pronounced emphasis on safety: bring your government-issued ID, bring cash, do your research beforehand, and make sure to wear a mask. 

“But also a great attitude. An inquisitive attitude is a great thing to bring to the dispensary if you’ve neve been there before,” Nickus added with a smile.

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